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Can a Lokpal Bill end corruption?

Friday August 19, 2011 12:10:21 AM, Satish Jha

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People talking about corruption in India usually take a cosmetic approach. The three draft Bills by the Government, Anna Hazare and Aruna Roy represent various hues of that cosmetics.


Foe corruption in India is a little deeper than it seems to an academic or someone who faces it or anyone who cares to be curious.


Saying its endemic will not help. For if its endemic, in other does not need external help to subsist and grow, there are deeper reasons that defy mere legislation to stem it.


Corruption is a value system where when I benefit its desirable, when I am the victim, its not.


We want a corrupt son-in-law and do not question the source of his income. We want our daughters to be well looked after by their husbands.

We want our husbands to give us what the neighbour’s wife has and our wives to look better than the neighbour’s without having the means to do so.


That is in the part of our society that depends greatly on permanent government jobs where once in, you are seldom out and earn what you do for doing whatever you may do.


However, the part of society that has become a member of the “second independence” that came about in 1990s, the new economy that has given India its new image, is less charmed by the corruption that is rooted so deeply in our system.


The new economy professional has left the corruption to the market forces that are evolving at their own pace with little ethical safeguards. The lawyers fleece their clients without giving justice, this doctors find ways to make money that will be questionable anywhere else, the traders find ways to do things that will put them in trouble anywhere else and virtually anyone who seems successful may be part of it, sometimes even without being aware of it.


The conflict the three versions have stems from where the three parties stand on this issue. The government does not want the politicians and bureaucrats to be harassed by the “civil’ society. Its interested in keeping a watch on the civil society instead. Arun Roy would like to find a middle ground while Anna Hazare would like to raise the risk of engaging in corrupt practices.


What none of them is addressing is when corruption is endemic, it does not get cured by legislation alone.


It needs creating new values that society can come to agree to, a new framework of dealing with various stakeholders, a new deal, a new contract, a new way of creating value and distribution of wealth, a new set of rules that govern it.


What all the three draft suggestions or Bills do is leave the key issues unaddressed. They are looking at a cancer as a wound with various degrees of severity. For the government it's a mere itch. For Anna Hazare it may require a bit of surgery. But the disease itself is far deeper and widespread. Just that it is curable, should we choose to pay attention to it. Alternately, its something that will keep us under-performing, keep us a little less healthy, sometime there may be eruptions that are far from pleasant. But on the whole we have learnt to live with it.


That said, without joining Anna’s movement we cannot change it. Not all of Anna’s comrades are as clean as they are portrayed to be. They are part of the same social structure. Even to expect that will be naïve at best.


So where do we begin? Well, please do join Anna Hazare’s movement and raise the voices that may help it become more realistic and effective. The fears of the Government on Hazare’s draft Bill are far from unreal. Given the value system we grow up with, most of those fears are very real and imminent.


On the other hand, the Government has nearly all the mechanisms it can imagine well in place to little results. Every ministry has a chief vigilance officer under whose surveillance corruption prospers. The CVO of each organization is either an IAS or IPS or another central service organization who knows the branches of corruption rather well.


What we need are the folks who begin to understand the rots of corruption. Right now they are groping around the spot of referred pain that the society feels. It needs to go a little deeper to find the roots before it can expect to get a meaningful response to the cure it finds.


While we are on that path, I would urge that the nation must begin to see things in a 20 year perspective. It takes us at least 20 years to groom an adult. Unless we have gone through a complete lifecycle of creating a new value system, there is little we can hope to gain from the cosmetic understanding and cures we chance upon.


Satish Jha is a former editor of Dinamaan, a newsweekly of The Times of India Group that was shut down later along with various other magazines of the Group. He is also a co-founder of Janasatta of the Indian Express Group.





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Dignitaries coming out from the Red Fort after Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh addressed to the Nation on the occasion of 65th Independence Day, in Delhi on August 15, 2011.

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